2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R | Street Test

Ninja Review

When handed the keys to the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, (aka ZX600R9F, as it’s called in the lab), a sudden inspiration to take risks beyond my comfort level stirred within. Upon first glance, this bike immediately satiated my cravings for something stylish and fresh. It just looked so stealth; it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best in class on the track, right out of the box.

At this year’s Fontana AMA race, Jamie Hacking and his ZX-6R almost won-all, deposing a bike with nearly twice its displacement.

Lime green is not my default favorite color by any means, it’s actually a color I’d probably ridicule or avoid in most cases, but the Kawasaki just has such a menacing presence and confidence about it, that it not only gets away with it but also somehow makes the color attractive. Then I noticed the intense stance of the headlights, with the ram-air intake sinister brow and couldn’t help but to feel just a tad jocund as I sat down and prepared for my ride.

A common shortfall of today’s Supersport bikes is that they are more track oriented than street. Oftentimes cumbersome they can leave the rider wondering why (s)he had bought it in the first place when most of his/her time is spent on the daily grind of the city’s grid. The Ninja is not one of those machines. I was pleasantly surprised by its ergonomics and overall comfort. The seat height is lower than last year’s model and I found the handlebars easy to reach. The bike is nimble, easy to handle, yet very stable for an advance intermediate rider or better. This is, in part, due to the improved weight distribution and weight loss program that resulted in the absence of 22 lbs; certainly not an easy feat in this class of already feathery bikes.

My month-long stint with the 600cc Ninja involved 1440 miles of letting the good times roll. My daily 80-mile R/T circuit to and from the office offers a wide array of terrain on which to assimilate its attributes. After a short stop-and-go jaunt through the neighborhood, I typically enter a lengthy freeway onramp with speed. The throttle response and the power delivery is impressive, hitting hardest between 9000 and 14000 rpm; which just happens to be in the middle of the ‘green zone’ of the eye-catching white-faced tachometer. The midrange and upper midrange revs are scary fun. This provides extra maneuverability while navigating through traffic at speed.

The easy to read LCD is another favorable feature that includes a practical gear indicator. When traffic slowed, I was satisfied by how easy it was to split lanes (which happens to be legal in California). I was assisted by sounds from the Ninja that had me convinced I was on something closer to a 750. Cars would either hear my coming or see the very bright and deliberate high beams and often, move aside well before I arrived. Once again at speed, the best way to avoid getting blown around like a ragdoll is to assume the tucked position, as the windshield is a throw away otherwise.

Next, I would ride through a bit more of the grid before I had the pleasure of appraising the ZX-6R’s agility. I am fortunate to be blessed to live near some of L.A.’s most famous canyon roads conveniently located between my home and office. Suffice it to say, the drive to work could be worse.

The Kawasaki was on point, ready and willing to give me whatever I could throw at it. While taking the canyons at high revs in second gear, I found the leading-class brakes performed flawlessly. The bike barely dives into corners under heavy braking, thanks to the Showa Big Piston front fork. It has fewer parts, weighs less and works like magic. The new ’10 Suzuki GSX-R 1000 has them stock, but the Kawasaki is the first in the 600 class; others will surely follow.

My typical commute continues toward, then along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, the Ninja garnering approving looks all along. I smiled a confident smile behind my tinted face shield. Once pulled into work and powered down, it is surely the best way I have found to start my day.

For a SuperSport bike as track savvy as the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R, I was thoroughly impressed at its overall abilities on the street. In the end, the most notable and significant advantage I felt was the confidence and trust that the machine gave me. It allowed the perfect balance of opposites, the capacity to perform while providing the ability for control and safety.

Read: Our ZX-6R Autopolis Track Test

See: Our ZX-6R Review in our Video Carousel >

Photography by Don Williams